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Working Together in Vanuatu

Working Together in Vanuatu: Research Histories, Collaborations, Projects and Reflections

John Taylor
Nick Thieberger
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Working Together in Vanuatu
    Book Description:

    This collection is derived from a conference held at the Vanuatu National Museum and Cultural Centre (VCC) that brought together a large gathering of foreign and indigenous researchers to discuss diverse perspectives relating to the unique program of social, political and historical research and management that has been fostered in that island nation. While not diminishing the importance of individual or sole-authored methodologies, project-centered collaborative approaches have today become a defining characteristic of Vanuatu's unique research environment. As this volume attests, this environment has included a dynamically wide range of both ni-Vanuatu and foreign researchers and related research perspectives, most centrally including archaeologists and anthropologists, linguists, historians, legal studies scholars and development practitioners. This emphasis on collaboration has emerged from an ongoing awareness across Vanuatu's research community of the need for trained researchers to engage directly with pressing social and ethical concerns, and out of the proven fact that it is not just from the outcomes of research that communities or individuals may be empowered, but also through their modes and processes of implementation, as through the ongoing strength and value of the relationships they produce. With this in mind, the papers presented here go beyond the mere celebration of collaboration by demonstrating Vanuatu's specific environment of cross-cultural research as a diffuse set of historically emergent methodological approaches, and by showing how these work in actual practice.

    eISBN: 978-1-921862-35-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Map of Vanuatu
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introductions

    • Welkam Toktok
      (pp. xvii-xviii)
      Jif Kalkot Murmur

      Daerekta blong miusiem, ol jeaman mo presiden blong ol man filwoka, woman filwoka, riseja from defren kantri long yumi long Pasifik mo long Europe, olgeta we oli save stap long ples ia, ol obsevas, ol midias, ol jifs, fren we hemi stap long ples ia. Mi mi tekem tis taem, mi tekem hona ia, blong save welkamem yufala evriwan bak long aelan blong yumi long Efate, ples we sam long yufala i bin stap bifo mo kontiniu blong stap kam, mo yufala i laekem tumas!

      Mi wantem mekem wan smol toktok olsem se, olsem mi neva save se bae mi...

    • Welcome Speech
      (pp. xix-xx)
      Kalkot Murmur

      Museum Director, Chairman and President of the man fieldworkers, woman fieldworkers, researchers from around the Pacific and from Europe, everyone who is able to attend here, observers, media, Chiefs, and friends who are here today. I would like to take this time, and take this honour, to welcome you all to our island, Efate, where some of you have been before and still visit, and seem to like rather a lot!

      I want to tell you briefly that, before, I never thought I would become a chief. I was born with a twin brother. I went to school and with...

    • Fes Toktok
      (pp. xxi-xxii)
      Paul Tahi

      Tangkiu tumas. Yumi stap long rum ia wetem yumi Second Political Advaesa blong Ministri blong Intenol Afea, Daerekta blong Nasonal Kaljoral Kaonsel mo Kaljoral Senta blong Vanuatu. Jif Murmur mo ol man riseja mo ol woman riseja mo ol filwokas, Dipiuti Daerekta blong Kaljoral Senta mo Jif Exekiutiv Ofisa blong Malvatumauri, mi glad tumas blong stanap long fored blong yufala from se fulap long yufala i bin apruv blong mekem risej long Vanuatu tru long kaonsel blong mi an mebi yufala ino save, mi tu mi no bin save long ol feses blong yufala be tede mi save lukim fulap...

    • Opening Speech
      (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
      Paul Tahi

      Thank you very much. We share this room with the Second Political Advisor to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Director of the National Cultural Council and Cultural Centre of Vanuatu. Chief Murmur and all the male researchers and the female researchers and filwoka, Deputy Director of the Cultural Centre, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Malvatumauri, I am very glad to be standing here before you all, especially since so many of you have been approved to undertake research in Vanuatu through my council, and yet perhaps you don’t know me. I, too, have not known all of...

    • Editors’ Introduction
      (pp. xxv-xxx)
      John Taylor and Nick Thieberger

      This collection is derived from a conference held at the Vanuatu National Museum and Cultural Centre (VCC), during November of 2006. This forum brought together a large gathering of foreign and indigenous researchers to discuss diverse perspectives relating to the unique program of social, political and historical research and management that has been fostered in that island nation. Afta 26 Yia (After 26 Years), as the conference was called in the national lingua franca Bislama, marked the silver anniversary of the publication of a landmark edited volume, Vanuatu: Politics, Economics and Ritual in Island Melanesia (Allen 1981), one year after...

  7. Histories

    • 1. Some Reflections on Anthropological Research in a Colonial Regime
      (pp. 1-10)
      Michael Allen

      When I first began research in Nduindui district in west Aoba (subsequently renamed Ambae) in November 1958, not only was it well and truly prior to independence, but very few had even begun to seriously contemplate that they might live to see such a day. In other words, there was a feeling that though independence would most probably occur one day, it was still a long way off, maybe half-a-century or more away. If we had known that it would be a reality in a mere 22 years we would without doubt have been astonished.

      It might help if I...

    • 2. The Research Context in New Hebrides-Vanuatu
      (pp. 11-26)
      Robert Tonkinson

      When I began fieldwork in the New Hebrides in 1966–67, late in the colonial period, conditions for research were benign. As is well known, an incompatibility between British and French foreign policies with respect to just about every facet of colonial administration had inevitably given rise to a distinctly laissez-faire approach to joint governance, which came to characterise the archipelago beyond the main towns and large centres of plantation activity. The hands that guided research in the Group, at least back then and in the run-up to Independence, were similarly light in their touch—perhaps because the influx of...

    • 3. Threading Many Needles: Ins and Outs of Anthropological Research in Pre-Independence Vanuatu
      (pp. 27-40)
      Ellen E. Facey

      In this paper I explain the circumstances surrounding research I conducted in the Pacific nation of Vanuatu in the late 1970s, or the New Hebrides/Les Nouvelles Hébrides as it was known at the time.¹ On applying for an extension of my permit to remain in the New Hebridean community in which I had been living for much of 1978, I was asked to adhere to the limit agreed on prior to my arrival, and to leave within a few days. My reasons for writing about this now are several. For one, it has become more acceptable in the anthropology of...

  8. Collaborations

    • 4. Big Wok: The Vanuatu Cultural Centre’s World War Two Ethnohistory Project
      (pp. 43-58)
      Lamont Lindstrom

      By the 1980s, it was clear that the generation of older ni-Vanuatu that had experienced the remarkable and sometimes traumatic events of the Pacific War was passing away. Sponsored by the Vanuatu Cultural Centre (VCC), with support from the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, VCC fieldworkers between 1987 and 1989 interviewed more than 125 men and women who had lived through the war years in Vanuatu (1942–1946). Coordinated by James Gwero and Lamont Lindstrom, the project attempted to locate and interview throughout Vanuatu men and women with stories to tell.¹ A selection of...

    • 5. Olgeta Stori blong Wol Wo Tu
      (pp. 59-66)
      James Gwero

      Hemi [Lamont Lindstrom] talem se bae mi stori smol, mi wantem talem se mi wantem go hom be oli talem se bae mi stori smol insaed long Wol Wo Tu so nao mi stap. Stori blong Wol Wo Tu hemi olsem kastom stori nao, olsem wan ples long Ambae oli kolem big man ia Tagaro we naoia hemi stap mekem faea i wok be volcano, be hemi olsem nao. Wol Wo Tu stori naoia hemi siksti yias nao an yu save luk samting we Tagaro i mekem olsem long ples ia yu save luk ol man America oli mekem rod...

    • 6. Diksnari blong Aneityum
      (pp. 67-72)
      Phillip Tepahae

      Okei tangkiu tumas olgeta mi gat bigfala hona mo rispek blong stanap long front blong yufala blong kivimaot prisentesen blong mi. Bae mi mas apolojaes long yufala taem we yumi gat tut yumi toktok i stret, be sapos mi no talem samting ino stret, aniwe. Be okei, tangkiu tumas, wan filwoka we nem blong hem Phillip Tepahae, mi blong Aneityum mi papa blong mi i bin go long New-Caledonia long Lifou. So taem we mi bon mi kambak long Aneityum, mi stap longwe hol laef blong mi. Mi long 1992 mi go bak long Aneityum an ating naoia mi gat...

    • 7. Discovering One’s Past in the Present
      (pp. 73-94)
      Mary Patterson, Koran Wilfred and Ileen Vira

      Quite a lot has been written about the nature of fieldwork since I began mine more than 40 years ago. And the world and its institutions have changed. As my entry to the field then was negotiated through the officials of a colonial government, my research now is approved by a committee of ni-Vanuatu who are beholden to no external authorities in their deliberations on its worth or management. Yet George Marcus’ comment of more than a decade ago remains valid: ‘the regulative ideals and framing presumptions of what it is to do fieldwork very much remain in place in...

    • 8. Ol Woman Filwoka
      (pp. 95-98)
      Jean Tarisesei

      Tangkiu long yufala evriwan we i stap, olsem ol big big man blong ol risejas we oli bin stap finis an ol filwokas an evriwan we i stap long ples ia ol staff. Mi talem tangkiu blong mekem se mifala tu mifala i save tek pat long sam toktok o sam risej blong mifala ol filwokas. Mi wantem talem smol nomo olsem se Richard hemi bin toktok finis olsem hemi talemaot wanem nao wok blong ol filwokas an ol woman filwokas olsem netwok blong olgeta i jes stat nomo. Long 1994 we fes woksop blong olgeta i bin stap olsem...

    • 9. Women Fieldworkers’ Collaborative Research: On the History of House-Girls in Vanuatu
      (pp. 99-114)
      Margaret Rodman, Leisara Kalotiti and Numalin Mahana

      This chapter describes a unique, collaborative project with contributions from twenty-one indigenous and four expatriate women. It led to a book, called House-Girls Remember that was launched in spirit at the Port Vila Conference in November 2006, and published in 2007. At the conference the three of us collaborated in anecdotally presenting material from our research. Here, in a more formal way, we offer some excerpts from our respective sections of the book, edited and summarised to reflect what we talked about at the conference. Margaret Rodman spoke about, and has revised here, material she co-authored with Daniela Kraemer, Lissant...

    • 10. Myths and Music of Futuna, Vanuatu: Past and Present in Dialogue
      (pp. 115-122)
      Janet Dixon Keller and Takaronga Kuautonga

      I wish to speak to a book project entitled Nokonofo Kitea/We Keep on Living This Way. Taking its title from the opening line of a customary Futuna song, the project aims to present, translate and understand aspects of the wisdom of Futuna elders and ancestors as embodied in traditional lore.¹ The goals of the volume are twofold: first to challenge the idea of a narrative archive as a static repository of past knowledge with the idea that collections of narrative constitute resources for dialogue and negotiation of both past and present; and second to discuss the Futuna theory of narrative...

  9. Projects

    • 11. Welkam Toktok
      (pp. 125-132)
      Ralph Regenvanu

      Tangkiu tumas long Jif Murmur long nambawan toktok blong yu. Mi wantem talem olsem Daerekta blong Kaljoral Senta mo Nasenel Kaljoral Kaonsel welkam bakegen long yufala long tis rum tede long nasenal miusiem mo tu long Port-Vila Vanuatu. Mi aknolejem presens blong Jif mo Presiden blong Malvatumauri, Nasenel kaonsel of Jifs we i stap wetem yumi, mo tu Jif Murmur, Presiden blong Efate kaonsel of Jifs mo tu Representatif blong Ministri blong Intenol Afea we i stap, wetem tu ol olfala filwoka blong yumi we oli stap speseli Jif Richard, James mi no luk sam bakegen long ples ia yet....

    • 12. Vanuatu Nasonal Film Unit
      (pp. 133-140)
      Jacob Kapere

      Gud aftenun long yumi evriwan mi gat bigfala hona blong stanap long fes blong yufala ol hae woman, man we oli harem nem blong yufala bifo mo yufala i mekem plante wok long Vanuatu mo i gud tu blong luk yufala evriwan yufala i kam joen olsem wan famle blong ol riseja we oli joenem grup blong ol filwoka mo ol man blong Vanuatu film unit. Mi mi bin joenem film unit long 1986 taem Kirk hemi faenem mi long rod long taon ating hemi bin faenem mi long nakamal hemi faenem se mi mi bin gat smol skil long...

    • 13. The Digital Archive and Catalogues of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre: Overview, Collaboration and Future Directions
      (pp. 141-150)
      William H. Mohns

      The Vanuatu Cultural Information Network (VCIN) is an on-going initiative of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre (VCC) to organise, manage and protect its digital archives.¹ These archives include those of Vanuatu’s National Library; Public Library; National Museum; National Photo, Film and Sound Archive (NFFSA); Vanuatu National Heritage Register; Women’s Culture Program; Young People’s Program; Traditional Resource Management Program; and Sand Drawing Project. Together these sections comprise the Vanuatu Cultural Centre.

      The VCIN, known internally as ‘the database project’, is a collaborative process among all sections of the VCC that began in December 2004 with the placement of a Canadian CUSO volunteer...

    • 14. Risej Long Ejukesen blong olgeta Pikanini long Saot Ambae
      (pp. 151-154)
      Roselyne Garae

      Long saot Ambae, long Penama provins long toktok we bae mi toktok long hem tede hemi pikinini mo papa. Olsem wanem bae mi statem toktok blong mi olsem bae mi no putum pikinini fastaem bae mi putum se papa mo mama hemi diuti blong tufala blong lukaotem pikinini long home. Taem papa mo mama we tufala i stap, tufala i fes karem pikinini blong tufala taem tufala i karem pikinini blong tufala olsem taem pikinini i bon oli no save se hemi wan pikinini boe o gel. So tat taem ia ol anti blong olgeta oli sakem ol ting long...

    • 15. Risej long Kakae blong Disasta long Tanna
      (pp. 155-158)
      Numalin Mahana

      Mi nem blong mi Numalin Mahana, mi kamaot long aelan blong Tanna long Waet Sands. Mi bin wok olsem filwoka blong Vanuatu Kaljorol Senta fo naen yias nao. So taem we mifala i kam stap givimaot ol ripot blong mifala long ol risejas we mifala i stap mekem, mifala i faenemaot se topik we mifala i stap kavremap hemi plante mo i go konektem wetem ol narafala laef long aelan. So from we mi mi kamaot long wan eria we ol taem nomo i gat disasta mo disasta ia i gat volcano, hariken mo drae sisen i stap afektem mifala...

    • 16. Olpoi Village Pottery Making Today
      (pp. 159-174)
      Yoko Nojima

      Lapita marks the beginning of pottery traditions in Vanuatu history.¹ At the opposite end of this chronological sequence are the two pottery traditions known on the western coast of Santo: namely, Wusi in the southwest and Olpoi in the northwest (Figure 16.1).² The well-known Wusi pottery certainly highlights the contemporary Santo pottery culture. In contrast, pottery production stopped almost half a century ago in the northwest, even though people still retain the knowledge of pottery manufacturing. This paper focuses on this latter case, the current situation of the pottery-making tradition among the people of Olpoi Village, based on my field...

    • 17. The Kastom System of Dispute Resolution in Vanuatu
      (pp. 175-182)
      Miranda Forsyth

      This paper is a short report of the progress of my doctoral research into the indigenous, non-state system of dispute management in Vanuatu, which is called the kastom system for the purposes of the study. This paper will discuss the research questions the study is based on, the operation of the kastom system generally, two of the leading principles of the kastom system, the challenges facing the kastom system today, the relationship of the kastom system with the state system and finally the problems with that relationship.¹

      The central issue with which the study is concerned is determining what the...

    • 18. Heritej Saet blong Roi Mata
      (pp. 183-188)
      Douglas Kalotiti

      Mi nem blong mi Douglas Kalotiti mi blong Efate long wan smol aelan nem blong hem Lelepa aelan. Mi mi wan filwoka blong Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta mi mi kam tekem ples blong wan olfala spika blong yumi we hemi Richard Leona hemi bin jeaman blong ol man filwoka ten afta we tem blong hem i finis. Mi bin stap wok long ples ia ating 9 yias nao. Bifo mi kam i gat ol bigfala grup blong Matthew Spriggs we oli kolem olgeta ol tim blong akioloji, ol man blong digim kraon oli bin kam oli bin kam tru long saed...

  10. Reflections

    • 19. Olfala Histri Wea i Stap Andanit long Graon. Archaeological Training Workshops in Vanuatu: A Profile, the Benefits, Spin-offs and Extraordinary Discoveries
      (pp. 191-214)
      Stuart Bedford, Matthew Spriggs, Ralph Regenvanu and Salkon Yona

      Archaeological research was included in the Vanuatu governmental moratorium on humanities-based research in Vanuatu from 1984 to 1994 (Bolton 1999: 1) and consequently it languished very much in a pioneering phase, reliant on interpretations from the results of a handful of influential projects that had been carried out through the 1960s and 70s. Right up to the mid-1990s fundamental questions relating to the initial colonisation and settlement of the archipelago and the succeeding cultural transformations which took place were still largely unanswered. Much of the country remained an archaeological terra incognita (Bedford et al. 1998; Bedford 2006a). However, the establishment...

    • 20. Smol Toktok long Risej blong Kastom
      (pp. 215-216)
      Martha Alick

      Tangkiu, mi nem blong mi Martha Alick mi mi kam long Epi long Laman aelan. Mi bin stap long wok ia olsem wan woman filwoka ia hemi eit yias blong mi nao. Mi mi gat wan woman filwoka long narasaed long wes we hemi stap staon longwe mo mi gat wan man filwoka tu i stap long Epi we hemi save stap blong wok wetem mi long risej blong mifala. Bae mi talem olsem ia se taem mi kam insaed olsem wan woman filwoka blong mi karemaot wok ia, mi faenem lelebet i had ia from mi mi ting se...

    • 21. Learning How to Relate: Notes of a Female Anthropologist on Working with a Male Fieldworker in Vanuatu
      (pp. 217-222)
      Sabine Hess

      In 1999 I visited Vanua Lava for three weeks to find a fieldsite for my doctoral research. Eli Field had been recommended to me as an experienced fieldworker from the Vanuatu Cultural Centre (VCC). During this first trip I was adopted by Eli Field as a daughter and my new family, his wife Joana and their five sons and two daughters, looked after me. Eli helped improve my Bislama by speaking what seemed to me in hindsight almost non-stop and high speed. My mother, Joana, took me to the creek to wash, showed me how to grate coconuts and how...

    • 22. Wok Olsem wan Filwoka
      (pp. 223-224)
      Elsy Tilon

      Tangkiu tumas mi gat bigfala hona mo rispek blong stanap long fes blong yufala blong talemaot smol tingting blong mi olsem mi kam mi olsem wan woman filwoka. Mi nem blong mi Elsy Tilon mi kam long wes blong Ambrym. Mi angkel blong mi ia hemi stap long fored ia, from mama blong mi i kam long not blong Ambrym. Mi wok mi kam olsem woman filwoka hemi eit yias nao, be mi gat wan man filwoka festaem hemi Ramel be ko-operesen blong hem wetem mi hemi nogud tumas. Be taem hemi finis Philip hemi kam in ko-operesen blong mitufala...

    • 23. Shifting Others: Kastom and Politics at the Vanuatu Cultural Centre
      (pp. 225-238)
      Benedicta Rousseau

      Assessing the origins of the Bislama term, kastom, anthropologists have highlighted its essentially oppositional nature (Bolton 1999; Lindstrom 1982; Rousseau 2004). Emerging in the context of colonisation and missionisation, kastom provided a discursive marker of a lifestyle apart from that of skul—the way of the mission (Bolton 1999). Over the next century, it found itself enmeshed in a variety of ‘evaluative dualisms’ (Lindstrom 1982), as practices, material culture and demeanour became linked with the descriptor, kastom. Vanuatu’s experience of modernity could be characterised as a series of ‘otherings’, with the category of kastom positioned in oppositional relationships that provide...

  11. Epilogue: A Personal Perspective on Afta 26 Yia: Collaborative Research in Vanuatu since Independence
    (pp. 239-246)
    Margaret Jolly

    The Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta (VKS) was the venue this week for a unique conference. Conjointly organised by Director Ralph Regenvanu and a team of young Australian researchers, Jack Taylor, Nick Thieberger and Stephen Zagala, it was focused on the theme of collaboration in research, wok tugeta. But collaboration was not just the theme but the practice. The conference was well timed between the annual workshops of women and men fieldworkers of the VKS. Many fieldworkers and other ni-Vanuatu presented papers and participated in the conference. And although the conference was advertised to start in Bislama and then move into English...